Plenary Speakers

Whether you are new to wetland science or a seasoned expert, you are sure to learn something new from our outstanding lineup of plenary speakers. These renowned experts will share new research findings, new management techniques and new perspectives. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet and hear from our leaders.

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Ariel Lugo, Ph.D.


International Institute of Tropical Forestry (USDA Forest Service)

Ariel Lugo is currently the Director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, a program of the USDA Forest Service. He received both his bachelor's degree and master's degree in science (biology) from the University of Puerto Rico. He obtained his Ph.D. in ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1969.

Dr. Lugo has been the recipient of many honors, including both the Distinguished Service Award and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the USDA Forest Service. He received a Meritorious Executive Rank Award from President George W. Bush and was among the members of the international science community that contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Scientific Assessment. He has received a Forest Hero Award from the United Nations at the United Nations Forum on Forests in Istanbul, Turkey. He has published over 515 scientific articles, is a highly cited researcher, has been an expert witness in federal court on several environmental cases, has been consulted on various environmental issues at the local, national, and international level, taught various classes and short courses in several universities, been advisor to over ten graduate students and is editor for various scientific journals.

Dr. Lugo’s current research includes the response of tropical forests to disturbances, studies of tropical wetlands and the ecological role of introduced species in the tropics.


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Lynn Scarlett

Managing Director for Public Policy

The Nature Conservancy

Lynn Scarlett is worldwide Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy and also serves as their Global Climate Strategy Lead. In these roles, Scarlett directs all policy in the United States and the 70 countries in which TNC operates. Scarlett is a former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior. While she was the Interior’s Deputy Secretary, Scarlett initiated and chaired the Department’s Cooperative Conservation Working Group and its first-ever Climate Change Task Force, established the Interior’s Ocean and Coastal Activities office to coordinate cross-departmental ocean and coastal work, chaired the nation’s Wildland Fire Leadership Council and served on the Executive Committee of the President’s Management Council. 

She is author or co-author of publications on climate change adaptation, ecosystem services, large landscape conservation and science and decision making. She chairs the Science Advisory Board of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), co-chairs the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Council established in 2014 by the U.S. Department of the Interior and co-chairs the National Academy of Sciences Sustainability Roundtable. She also served on the U.S. Global Change Research Program Committee and is a co-convening lead author of the National Climate Assessment. She is on the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She also serves on the board of trustees of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also completed her Ph.D. coursework and exams in political science and political economy.


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Brian Silliman, Ph.D.

Rachel Carlson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology

Duke University

Brian Silliman is the Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology at Duke University. He holds both B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of Virginia, and completed his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University.

Dr. Silliman was named a David H. Smith Conservation Fellow with The Nature Conservancy in 2004, a Visiting Professor with the Royal Netherlands Society of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2016. He has also received several awards, including the Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Naturalists (2006), a Young Investigator Grant Award from the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2007) and a NSF Career Grant Award (2011). Dr. Silliman has published 16 book chapters and over 140 peer reviewed journal articles, and has co-edited two books: Human Impacts on Salt Marshes: A Global Perspective (with T. Grosholtz and M. D. Bertness) and Marine Community Ecology (with M. Bertness, J. Bruno and J. Stachowicz).

Dr. Silliman’s teaching and research are focused on community ecology, food-webs, conservation and restoration, global change, plant–animal interactions, and evolution and ecological consequences of cooperative behavior.